Top 10 Grossest Foods in the World

By Katie Arango
07 February 2011

The one single best piece of travel wisdom out there is probably “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.“  But what if these particular Romans are dining on foods made of bugs, blood or questionable animal parts? Note: If you are especially squeamish, you might not want to read on.  Here’s a countdown of the most disgusting food from all over the world:

1.  Criadilla – Bull Testicles from Argentina, Spain, elsewhere

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Fried, roasted with veggies or just thrown on the grill, Criadilla or bull’s testicles, are widely regarded as a tasty treat in several parts of the world, including Argentina.  It shouldn’t come as such as surprise, though, as a typical Argentine barbecue consists of many seemingly inedible parts of the cow, including: chitterling, large intestine, glands, kidney, liver, brains, udders, and that mouthwatering list goes on and on…

2.  Mopani Worms from South Africa

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These South African edible faves are basically sun-dried blue and green spiky caterpillars.  Of course, the practice of eating creepy critters is not at all unique to South Africa.  In many parts of the world beetles, ants, crickets, moths, termites, silk worms, spiders, larvae, scorpions, and grasshoppers are typical fare.  These Mopani worms are picked, pinched at the tail, and then squeezed like a tube of toothpaste until the green, slimy guts come out the front.  They are then dried or smoked, and ready for consumption.  Did we mention they are a great source of protein?

3. Turducken from the United States

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While there is nothing inherently nauseating about eating chicken, turkey or even duck, we’re not sure why it’s necessary to eat all of them together, in the same bite.  This relatively new Thanksgiving tradition features a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed into a de-boned turkey (and don’t forget the layers of stuffing, of course!)  This meal within a meal (within a meal) can be braised, roasted, grilled or even barbecued.  And just in case this dish strikes you appetizing and not total poultry overload, there are plenty of recipes, how-to videos and even companies that will ship a raw Turducken to your house, just in time for the holidays.

4. Wasp Crackers from Japan

You’ve probably had crackers with sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or even flaxseeds baked right in.  But this Japanese snack takes it a step further – they’ve got whole wasps baked right into them.  Not sure if the appeal is the shock value, or the oily taste it is said to add to the cracker. We’re just wondering if their stingers are removed at any point...

5. Rats on a stick from China, S. Korea, elsewhere

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If we tell you these are typically field rats rather than the city rats you might be familiar with, would that make this dish any more palatable?  How about if we mention that they taste like chicken…does that make it any more enticing?  In China, rats-on-a-stick is only one of the various ways rats are consumed.  There’s also: rat soup, steamed rat, rat with black beans, baby rats dipped in soy sauce, and fermented rat fetus wine.  Maybe rat is the real other white meat.

6. Placenta Jelly Drink from Japan

Yes, you read that right.  Lauded in Japan for its beauty and rejuvenation properties, placenta can be found in many forms: juice drink, concentrated juice, pills, capsules, creams, etc.  Placenta 10000 Jelly Drink is made from actual pig placenta, but don’t worry, the website assures us that the drink smells and tastes like peaches, rather than, say, actual placenta.  And, as if that wasn’t enough to convince you, here’s the best part: it’s got zero calories, so you can enjoy your placenta guilt free!

7. Pidan - Century Eggs from China

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After hearing the name Century eggs, you might be relieved to know that these eggs are not, in fact, 100 years old…though they look like they could be.  These chicken, duck or quail eggs are prepared by being coated in a mixture of clay, ash, lime, salt, and rice hulls...not by being soaked in horse urine as their pungent aroma of sulphur and ammonia has led people to believe.  After being left for several weeks to several months, the eggs have a dark green, creamy yolk and a dark brown translucent “white”. Is anyone else wondering if these were the inspiration behind the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham?

8. Bault – Boiled Fertilized Egg from Southeast Asia and the Philippines

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Staying on the topic of revolting eggs for a moment, we’ve got this Southeast Asian gem.  Balut is just like the eggs you are used to eating for Sunday brunch, except they are usually duck eggs and, oh yeah, they’re fertilized.  These boiled street vendor snacks are typically eaten right out of the shell, and you can eat both the baby chick (complete with almost fully formed beak and feathers) and the yolk, depending on your tolerance level.  Also worth noting on the topic of, well, unborn food, there is a delicacy in Argentina known as nonato, which is, you guessed it, calf fetus.  Though some might find it ethically questionable, others enjoy its gelatinous taste in stew.

9. Smileys – Roasted Sheep Head from South Africa

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The name Smiley might sound innocent enough, but if you are planning a trip to South Africa any time soon, be warned.  To the inexperienced foreigner, the name might invoke images of an oversized cookie or, maybe some form of Happy Meal.  But this township favorite we’re referring to a actually a roasted sheep’s head, complete with teeth, ears, eyeballs, brains and tongue--all still intact. After being cooked on an open fire, the lips burn away to reveal the macabre “smile” in question.  Note: if you are actually going to take the plunge, be sure not to skip the tongue and the brains—they are said to be the tastiest parts.

10. Tiết canh – Duck Blood Soup from Vietnam

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What’s bright red, semi-liquid and tastes kind of metallic?  If you guessed Vietnamese raw duck blood soup, you’re right!  This common breakfast is basically straight from the duck (or goat) to the refrigerator (to help with the congealing process) to your mouth, with a little ginger, lime, cooked duck innards or peanuts added in the process.  When it comes out of the fridge, it has the color and consistency of pizza sauce, but don’t be fooled, this dish has nothing to do with tomatoes.

So there you have it – the top ten most unappealing, unpleasant and unsavory foods around.  Though some of these foods might seem to you like they’ve come directly from a reality show challenge, in different parts of the world, they are simply dinner.  Looks like gross truly is in the eye of the beholder.  Bon Appetit!


Posted in: Culture | 1 Comment

Katie Arango

Program Director, Argentina


  • John 23 July 2013

    I'm from South Africa, and although I have not eaten Mopani worms, as they are really gross, I do know that they are usually fried.. not squeezed out like toothpaste. They are pan fried until they are solidified all the way through and are crunchy on the outside.

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